For every SEO campaign, success should be defined by sales growth – not merely improvements in rankings or growth in organic traffic.
Unfortunately, many brands pursue SEO strategies that increase organic traffic but not sales. These strategies include content-based SEO approaches like publishing informational articles, product comparisons and FAQs.
What is the problem with these strategies?
It’s easy to generate poorly targeted content that generates traffic for keywords that simply don’t convert.
I’m not accusing your writers of creating content without SEO keywords in mind. In 2019, anyone who writes for the web is aware of keyword targeting for SEO. In fact, many writers and content marketers are skilled at evaluating ranking difficulty using tools like Ahrefs and Moz, then choosing keywords accordingly.
Instead, I’m highlighting the need to take your keyword research to the next level. You must go one step beyond volume and competition: You must research the intent behind your keywords. Alignment between keyword intent and the products you offer is crucial.
Logically, this makes sense. If a website selling water filters only ranks for tooth brush keywords (e.g. “electric tooth brush” and “kids tooth brushes”), it will experience non-existent sales. This is obvious.
It’s less obvious how subtle differences in keyword intent can make or break conversion rates…
A while back, we analyzed the results of an SEO campaign for a client selling 3d printers. They were generating traffic for two important keywords: “3d printer” and “3d printing”.
Through our analysis, we learned that the “3d printer” keyword converted well and generated e-commerce sales for the brand. The keyword “3d printing” keyword did not convert at all – not one sale.
After a deep dive into the intent behind these keywords, we discovered that people searching for a “3d printer” were interested in buying a 3d printer machine. People who were searching for “3d printing” were looking for a service to do the printing for them.
This means that traffic for the “3d printing” keyword was worthless to our client. They didn’t offer a 3d printing service. They only sold machines.
This subtle (but crucially important) distinction between the intent behind these searches is the difference between generating traffic and generating sales. Don’t overlook keyword intent. When performing keyword research, weigh search intent just as heavily—if not more so—than search volume or competition. This is the key to crafting an SEO campaign that drives sales.
How do you research the intent behind your keywords?
Researching keyword intent is both art and science…
Approach #1 – Hard data on keyword conversion rates comes from your Google Ads (a.k.a. AdWords) account. This is a case where your paid Google campaigns can inform your SEO strategy. If you are bidding on the keywords in question, you can track conversions in Google Ads and Google Analytics. Consequently, you’ll have a good idea which keywords convert and the intent behind the searches.
Approach #2 – Decipher keyword intent by typing the keywords into Google and see what pops up. Google is very good at surfacing the most relevant websites for a query. This means you can trust that Google understands the intent behind most queries and shows searchers what they want.
Approach #3 – Qualitatively, I recommend paying close attention to the exact words/phrases your customers use during sales conversations. Did they say they are looking for “custom jewelry” or a “custom jeweler”? What is the difference in the eyes of your customer?
Approach #4 – Research the keywords your competitors target in their paid Google Ads campaigns and landing pages they use. Reviewing both the keywords and the landing pages will give you an idea what your competitors have learned about converting visitors for their target keywords. You can uncover this data with a paid SEO tool like Ahrefs or KeywordSpy. Basically, you can assume that your competitors are rational. So, they are only bidding on keywords that convert for them (otherwise, they would be running unprofitable Google Ads campaigns). For this assumption to hold true, it is best to focus on your most sophisticated competitors.
One last thought: Keep in mind that generic, high traffic keywords likely have many search intents behind them (e.g. “sneakers” or “jewelry”). They just aren’t specific enough that we can say everyone typing them into Google is searching for the same thing — e.g. for the “sneakers” keyword, some searchers are looking for kids shoes and others for adult basketball shoes. This is why generic keywords are hard to convert. They might generate a lot of traffic, but we don’t know exactly what the searchers are looking to buy. Analyzing keywords for search intent is most useful for more specific keywords (e.g. “3d printing service” or “dive watch”). Hopefully, this information helps you understand the risk of increasing organic traffic to your site without increasing sales. Many brands find themselves in this situation. Search marketing works best when you offer people exactly what they are searching for on the first page they see. The key to growing sales is to target the right keywords: keywords that convert for you because they align with the products/offers on your website.